Motion Recommending that the Government Not Support Development of a United States National Missile Defence System

Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 37th Parliament,
Volume 139, Issue 6
Thursday, February 8, 2001

Hon. Douglas Roche, pursuant to notice of February 6, 2001, moved:
That the Senate of Canada recommends that the Government of Canada avoid involvement and support for the development of a National Missile Defence (NMD) system that would run counter to the legal obligations enshrined in the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which has been a cornerstone of strategic stability and an important foundation for international efforts on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation for almost thirty years.

He said: Honourable senators, does Canada want a new nuclear arms race? Does Canada want the carefully built structure of disarmament and non-proliferation treaties now to collapse? Does Canada want the unity of NATO to be shattered?

Of course, the answer to these questions is a resounding "no," but the development and deployment of a national missile defence system by the United States will produce these unfortunate results.

The thrust of the motion I am presenting today is that Canada must exercise all its diplomatic and political strength to convince the U.S. administration not to proceed with NMD, as the system is known. Canada will not be alone in expressing this view, for many NATO allies, along with Russia, China, as well as nuclear disarmament and legal experts and NGOs, are trying to stop NMD.

This NMD system, initially projected to cost $60 billion, is intended to provide a defence for all 50 states in the United States against small-scale attack by intercontinental-range ballistic missiles.

The primary argument made for immediate deployment is the possibility that emerging missile states hostile to the U.S., such as North Korea, might soon acquire ICBMs and use them to attack U.S. territory. The proposed NMD system would use ground-based interceptors deployed initially at one site and eventually at two sites, supported by an extensive network of ground-based radar and space-based infrared sensors. This system uses impressively advanced technology. It is precisely the deployment of such a system that the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, known as the ABM treaty, signed by the U.S. and the former Soviet Union in 1972, was designed to stop. The ABM treaty was constructed to establish stability and confidence between the nuclear superpowers by disallowing the development of defensive systems in order to prevent the building of more offensive weapons to overcome these defences. The U.S. readily admits NMD contravenes the ABM treaty and is pressuring Russia to amend it or to abrogate it entirely.

The ABM treaty is widely recognized as a lynchpin of international stability and security. Consider the words of French President Jacques Chirac speaking last October in his role as President of the European Union: The European Union and Russia have an identical viewpoint. We have condemned any potential revision of the ABM Treaty, believing that such a revision will invoke a risk of proliferation that will be very dangerous for the future.

Documents concerning the ongoing U.S.-Russian negotiations on ABM amendments were published in the New York Times several months ago.


These documents show that not only is the U.S. retaining its core stock of nuclear weapons but is actually encouraging Russia to do so as well so that Russia will know that it can always penetrate NMD and thus not be afraid of it.

If NMD does go ahead, the U.S. cannot then credibly argue that it is fulfilling its legal obligations to the non-proliferation treaty. Yet at the NPT Sixth Review in the year 2000, all 180 signatories, including the United States made: unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.

This pledge was inserted into a program of 13 practical steps to implement the commitment in legal and very final processes. The NPT obliges nations to pursue negotiations for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

The famous 1996 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice states that nations must conclude such negotiations. NMD flies in the face of the efforts the world community has been making for 30 years to contain arms races and set the world firmly on a path to the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Honourable senators, the opponents of NMD know what they are talking about. They know that we can only obtain security through cooperative efforts based on legal instruments. A unilateral breakout from the disarmament regime jeopardizes everyone's safety.

To say that the international community is in an uproar over U.S. intentions puts it mildly. There is consternation. The issue has not only split the U.S. from Russia but has virtually isolated the U.S. from the world community. Even the nuclear partners and strongest allies of the U.S. are publicly trying to dissuade the U.S. from proceeding because of the irreparable harm it will do to the nuclear disarmament agenda. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan recently stated: There is widespread skepticism that such systems could ever work effectively, and real concern that their deployment could lead to a new arms race, set back nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation policies, and create new incentives for missile proliferation.

Last December, when Russian President Putin was in Ottawa, he said he believed that "deployment of the National Missile Defence system will damage significantly the established systems of international security" and undermine arms control progress over several decades.

It was interesting that in a joint statement Canada and Russia issued on that occasion, they agreed:
The 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty is a cornerstone of strategic stability and an important foundation for international efforts on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. The two countries hope for...far-reaching reductions in strategic offensive weapons while preserving and strengthening the ABM Treaty.

Chinese leaders have argued with considerable justification that NMD deployment is tantamount to seeking unilateral, absolute security. The Chinese have stated that by no means will they accept any kind of ballistic missile defence system, as it poses a severe threat to global strategic balance and stability, warning that the international nuclear disarmament process would come tumbling down if the U.S. proceeds with NMD. NATO countries, while circumspect, are also deeply concerned, seeing the threat that the fallout from NMD will create.

Despite the opposition so widely expressed, the arrival of the Bush administration has stiffened U.S. resolve to proceed. U.S. officials are now saying that the system will proceed even though the technological ability has not been demonstrated. For a while, the U.S. used North Korea's missile program as a reason why NMD was needed.

Now that the North Korean threat has receded, the U.S. has said that unspecified threats in the future force the development of NMD. In short, the threat from other countries is diminishing as Canada's newly established ties to North Korea illustrate. Yet the proponents to NMD say an enemy is lurking, precisely because they must be able to depict an enemy somewhere in order to generate the support of U.S. taxpayers.

Frances Fitzgerald points out in her book Way Out There in the Blue, NMD is the successor of the discredited Strategic Defence Initiative of the 1980s known as Star Wars, and is driven by the ideologically-based extreme right in the U.S. that seeks an impossible unilateral security. The motivation of this group, which has captured control of the U.S. administration, is to prepare the way for the U.S. military dominance of outer space. The spectre of a puny North Korea as a rationale for NMD is but a subterfuge for the real goal, which is the development of weapons in space and preparation for space-directed wars in the 21st century, and total U.S. military dominance in all possible theatres of conflict.

In all of this, the profits for the military industrial complex, already at historic highs because of the $280-billion annual defence budget of the U.S. will be spectacular.

Honourable senators, this is the dilemma in which Canada finds itself. Our government, with many others, is clearly concerned that NMD will have deleterious consequences on strategic stability and spark a new nuclear arms race, but it is afraid of wrecking Canada-U.S. relations if it pushes too hard against the Bush administration. Yet in the late 1980s, when Canada was invited by the U.S. to join the Star Wars program, the Canadian government of the day said no. If Canada could say no to missile defence madness during the Cold War, why can we not do so in the post Cold War era?

U.S.-Canada defence has been intertwined for decades. The NORAD agreement developed during the Cold War to warn of Soviet missile attack is an expression of the structural relationship between the U.S. and Canada. However, the structural agreements of NORAD and NATO certainly do not contain a basis for NMD. It is a dangerous assumption to argue that Canada's participation in NORAD would require us to enter into an NMD relationship. To do so would involve Canada in the wreckage of the disarmament architecture that NMD represents.

I appeal to the government not to be taken in by the propaganda offensive the U.S. has launched - that everyone should get in line because the NMD train has left the station. How could the train have left the station when NMD technology does not even work yet?

The U.S. is actually seeking from Canada the political legitimization of NMD through Canada signing on now. We must not sign on. If Canada throws over its principles of upholding international law just to please an ideologically based demand of the current occupants of the White House, we will be forfeiting the best interests of Canada and jeopardizing the security of the Canadian people themselves. A Canadian government that acquiesces to NMD will go down in history as having overturned decades of good, solid work that Canada has done to build the conditions for peace. What then is the way out of this dilemma for Canada? We must participate vigorously in efforts to uphold and implement the non-proliferation treaty with its "unequivocal undertaking to the total elimination of nuclear weapons" through the 13 practical steps. Time does not permit me to list those steps now. Canada should work closely with the new agenda countries in advancing the nuclear disarmament agenda. As this agenda is implemented, any rationale for NMD that seeks to be credible will be diminished.

The alternative to NMD is the maintenance of international legal norms backed up by a properly funded verification regime, arms control, economic incentives, cooperative programs and export control systems. The nuclear posture review the U.S. is about to undertake provides an excellent opportunity for Canada to put forth its views on a bilateral basis to the United States on the full range of interrelated offensive and defensive issues. Canada should encourage the U.S. to delay its final decision on missile defence architecture and deployment until that review has been finished and absorbed.

Also, Canada should support the Russian proposal for the creation of a joint Russian-American data centre on missile launches, a "global control system," to stop the proliferation of missile technology. Multilateral efforts to freeze and reduce the military missile capabilities of all states will be the most effective tool to address real or perceived new ballistic missile threats.

For their part, the Canadian NGO community could buttress Canada's efforts by working closely with the U.S.-based Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers, which has laid out a program of action to influence the political decision makers.

Canada is by no means impotent in the NMD crisis. We can - and we must - work creatively to reduce nuclear dangers throughout the world.